Director: Emily Greenslade & Tom Brennan
Writer: Tom Brennan
Reviewer: Bethan Highgate-Betts
Award-winning theatre maker Tom Brennan brings us his latest production, The Episode. An intimate show about fashion and the all too vivid reality of reality television.
Kate (Nesba Crenshaw) had everything. The money, the lifestyle, the editorial position at the biggest fashion magazine in the country, but for the last seven years things have been a little different. After a fall from the fashion graces Kate finds herself head judge of a reality television show looking for the next top model. It’s not high art, but it is extremely popular. However, seven years is a long time to do anything, and this season, Kate has decided, will be her last.
As the audience filters in, Kate sits upon a chair centre stage. Two rows of chairs are filling up either side, creating a ‘runway’ effect. Kate just sits, impenetrable through her giant dark sunglasses. Throughout the course of the performance she is joined onstage by two other characters; Jay (Lolade Rufai), who in her own words is a sort of ‘guru/fairy Godmother’ for the contestants, and DW (Isobella Hubbard) a camera operator who’s more used to shooting in war zones than on catwalks. The news of Kate’s imminent departure has caused some tension throughout the crew, but once the new influx of fresh-faced contestants arrives, everyone gets swept up in the competition.
Talking to the audience and each other the story begins to unfold, and one last character emerges. Without ever being heard or seen Grace becomes an integral part of The Episode. An unlikely contestant, the tall 19-year-old has a firm place in everyone’s memories. It is a testament to Brennan’s writing that Grace feels so real through only the other character’s descriptions.
The three actors deliver strong performances, their talent evident from the delivery of quick-fire dialogue, often interrupting each others memories of the events with their own. Having three perspectives to one story gives the narrative an air of the believable. For a performance with so little going on visually this level of detail keeps the audience engaged throughout.
With simple staging, The Episode really carries the idea of ‘centre stage’, mimicking the world of catwalks as well as reality television set ups. The lighting also attempts so mimic this, but with slightly more sinister undertones. This does occasionally fall flat; the changes are so sudden and accompanied by a loud shift in music that having the 3 women stand centre stage drenched in harsh red lights can at times feel a little more comical than anything else.
An engaging and thought-provoking show, The Episode is an intriguing look at staged-scenario realities and the human condition.
Runs until 25 February 2017 then continues to tour | Image: Contributed